Through powerful vocals, electric drums and dark lyrics, Sia paints the portrait of a person who has encountered the less tasteful side of life in her latest album, “1000 Forms of Fear.”
The studio album, the sixth by the singer-songwriter, is one that channels a darkness that comes from the downsides of fame, heartbreak and personal loss. Sia combines all these themes to create a 12-track album of crescendoing anthems that find her both wallowing in and overcoming a variety of setbacks.
Over a finger-snap beat and a hollow-sounding marimba line, Sia sings in the albums’s lead single “Chandelier”: “Party girls don’t get hurt/ Can’t feel anything, when will I learn/ I push it down, push it down/ I’m the one ‘for a good time call’/ Phone’s blowin’ up, they’re ringin’ my doorbell/ I feel the love, feel the love.”
The track not only highlights one of the album’s major themes – love and heartbreak – but also serves as a clear reflection of the album’s gray area between a total sense of despair on one hand and a sense of hope on the other. The song builds to a hook that juxtaposes a triumphant melody with a foreboding lyric capturing Sia’s struggle to suppress painful emotions.
Similarly, on the track “Big Girls Cry,” Sia sings, “I’m at home, on my own/ Check my phone, nothing, though/ Act busy, order in/ Pay TV, it’s agony/ I may cry ruinin’ my makeup/ Wash away all the things you’ve taken/ And I don’t care if I don’t look pretty/ Big girls cry when their hearts are breaking.”
Starting with a mid-tempo rhythm, the song gains momentum as Sia hits the chorus. The track is reflective of the agony that accompanies a relationship that fails to succeed in the end. However, it also simultaneously serves to debunk the old saying “Big girls don’t cry” – completely removing any shame in being emotionally honest with oneself.
The pop-sounding productions on songs like “Free the Animal,” “Hostage” and “Burn the Pages” give off positive energy at the first listen, but the message that underlies each of them is dark, encompassing the overarching theme of heartache. This method of approaching each song is one that ultimately works in Sia’s favor as it allows her to convey heavy themes and dark lyricism without sitting too heavy on the listener.
While independently the songs are eloquently composed and lyrically engaging, “1000 Forms of Fear” is the kind of album that is difficult to listen to all the way through in one sitting. The tracks seem to all variate between the same tempos and rhythms, following a format that becomes tiring midway through the album.
Despite this minor flaw, the songs on “1000 Forms of Fear” provide a refreshing take on the lyricism that is typical of pop music. While most of the songs fall into standard pop subgenres, such as ballads and power anthems, Sia regularly creates lyrics that are far more dark, creepy and complex than one would normally find on the radio. She goes against the generic composition of mainstream music and instead sets a new standard for what it should be.
– Shelly Maldonado